Training tips for taking on a Great Walk

Department of Conservation —  09/12/2017

Dreaming of taking on one of the spectacular Great Walks but feel like you need some more training under your belt? Here are some helpful tips just for you…

1. Forget the elevator, take the stairs!

First up let’s focus on building up your strength and endurance. If you live in a flat area, stairs can make the perfect ‘pretend mountain’ to climb. Best of all you can do this at home, work, local parks or nearby buildings – you have your own personal gym wherever you go.

Try walking up the stairs sideways or using every second step to activate different muscles, just ignore the funny looks you might get. Powering up and down flights of stairs might not be considered fun, but it definitely works.

Climbing stairs along Te Whara Track, Northland.

Climbing stairs along Te Whara Track, Northland

2. Take a break on a Shorter Walk

The perfect place to start exploring our natural wonders is on a shorter walk in your local area. This is a good chance to train and get a feel for walking across different types of terrain. Best of all it gives you the chance to take a break in the outdoors and get in touch with nature. 

Use the handy search tool on our website to filter tracks by duration, region and difficulty. You can even use the tick box to find dog friendly tracks so that your furry friend can encourage you along in your training too.  

Through the grass

Lakehead Track. Kathrin and Stefan Marks CC-BY-NC

Bootprints in the sand.

Treat your feet

3. Get decent footwear

Your feet are the most important tool when it comes to walking. Find yourself some decent quality boots, make sure they are water resistant and provide plenty of support and ventilation. When looking for new boots, try shopping in the afternoon, your feet will have expanded slightly so you’ll get the right size. Lastly, be sure to wear them in the months leading up to the walk, it’ll help you avoid those nasty blisters.

Also, don’t forget good socks. Hiking socks (usually a nylon/wool blend) can help keep out the moisture and wearing two pairs will further reduce the chance of blisters even further.

4. Build up that leg strength

Although there’s no substitute for long walks, any leg-based cardio is going to help. Rugby, netball, tennis and swimming are all great, but cycling is the best way to help build your leg muscles.

If you’re more of a gym junkie, mix up some spin sets with weighted squats and lunges.

Cyclist enjoying Deans Bank loop biking and walking track, Dublin Bay.

Cycling is a great way to build your leg muscles

5. Fuel yourself

Hydration and food are crucial during a multi-day walk, and in preparation for one. Nuts, jerky, dried fruit, oat bars and chocolate are all good quick sources of energy and protein.

During your training, make sure to eat ‘on the go’ so your body can get used to digesting during strenuous exercise.

Scroggin — the Kiwi word for Trail Mix.

Scroggin — the Kiwi word for Trail Mix

6. Find your balance

Balance is one of the most important components of walking a multi-day track. Practising your balance at home reduces the risk of ankle rolls and knee damage on the trail. Try balancing on one leg (you can close your eyes to make it harder).

Balancing rocks in a stream.

Find your balance

7. Practice using your backpack

It’s likely that you’ll be carrying items such as clothing, food, drinks and maybe more, so your choice of backpack is important. Look for packs that have adjustable chest and waist straps so that you can position the pack correctly on your back.

Practice using your loaded backpack as part of your training so that you are used to the weight and position.

Walker with backpack looking across rolling hills.

Practice using your backpack as part of your training

8. Have a go at an overnighter

Keen to explore but still not feeling up to a multi-day track? You can test your self and practice by going on a longer day hike or trying an easy overnighter to local DOC hut in your area. DOC manages a network of over 950 huts of all shapes and sizes. While not all of them are as glamorous as our Great Walk huts in terms of facilities, they’re a great chance to practice carrying overnight gear, cooking in the backcountry and to test any new gear before booking your Great Walk. 

If you aren’t feeling up to a full multi-day Great Walk, there are great overnight options on most Great Walks going to the first or second hut at each track end. 

Use the handy search tool on our website to filter huts by region, facilities, and category of hut.  


Tramper at Speargrass Hut. Kathrin and Stefan Marks Copyright CC-BY-NC-ND 

Discover, plan, and book your next Great Walk here or explore our website to discover more awesome walks in your local area here. 

One response to Training tips for taking on a Great Walk


    Some fabulous suggestions.